By Alicia Henry
Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that birthing my son would dismantle my ego, unravel my identity, and rain down upon my physical body such unbridled pain and power. Birth did just that—and I am forever grateful.
We planned a home birth. Dim lights and candles, the familiarity of our home, easy access to whatever foods I craved, our cat, and the warmth of our bed. It was what our heart of hearts desired. However, Oscar, this Universe, someone, something, had a different plan.
As one of our first parenting decisions, Brendan and I consciously chose hospital over home. We had only minutes to grieve the loss of a home birth. Dawn was beginning to push its way through the night sky as we hunched over the phone on a call with our midwife:
No. No contractions yet. Some pings and pains, but nothing major. We’ll pack up now…ok…see you there.
My water broke over 24 hours prior and contractions still hadn’t started—even after the concerted efforts of acupuncture, massage, and an herbal protocol.
I wept, but only for a moment. It was time to pack our sentimentals into a box. We brought home with us.
At 5 a.m. on a late winter morning, my husband Brendan and I ever so sleepily greeted our midwives and our doula at the hospital entrance. The unplanned plan had happened and we were surrendering to it.
Daylight flooded the hospital room, and peeking at us from between the blinds were many confident evergreens. This scene helped calm my nerves. So did a warm bath that Brendan prepared for me. It was there, in the warm water with my husband by my side that contractions made their way into my body, creating a wild ocean. The initiation began.
Rush after rush. Tidal waves. Knees on the floor. Hands grabbing the ground. If I could have sunken into the Earth’s soil, I would have. There was no soil. Just a hard floor, thirteen floors above the ground.
Birth shook my bones, rattled my womb, wiped my mind clean, and greeted my flesh with the most undeniable pain I’ve ever known. She also offered me power: a lens into a sacred power that has lived within me all along. It was a power so unwavering that it felt ancient and eternal all at once. Another wave. Another howl. Another groan. Only on my knees. My body and my baby wouldn’t allow me to get into any other position. Oscar wasn’t turned in his exit position and his head was tilted. Another wave. Another deep groan.
Oh God. Oh God. Oh God.
My doula, Nicolette, offered me her loving touch. With each excruciating and deeply primal contraction, she performed the famed “double hip squeeze” that offered relief to my sacrum. Between contractions my husband fed me ice chips and bone broth and applied lip balm to my lips. My midwife cheered me on, communing often with the saint-of-a-nurse that was on shift. Music was playing and there were moments I’d tap into it: mantras bringing me deeper into my power and further connecting me to Source. I waved my hips to and fro in the tepid water of the birthing pool as I transcended time and space.
And wondered: “when will this pain come to an end?”
My son, Oscar, has been my teacher since the moment I found out that I was pregnant. The lessons he teaches me get harder by the hour, but at the same time, the hours get sweeter by the second. Birth shook me to my core and cleared out the superficialities that were taking up too much space within; this abrupt eviction made room for Motherhood who now holds high court.
Creation is a powerful force.
It is perfectly appointed chaos.
It is divine in its essence.
Creation resides within each of us.
May we know deeply,
this sweet and ancient truth.